Coming to Terms with the Stasi: History and Memory in the Bautzen Memorial

Marcel Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the role played by the encounter of history and personal memories in the difficult process of coming to terms with the Stasi in present-day eastern Germany. While historians have made substantial progress over the last two decades in accounting for the wide range of ways in which the German Democratic Republic (GDR) is remembered by East Germans, the memorials and museums of the reunified Germany remain unable to integrate memories of dictatorial oppression and happiness in everyday life. Sites commemorating state repression are thus often assumed to lack impact on former GDR citizens whose memories differ from official versions of history. These assumptions are tested for the Bautzen Memorial, formerly known as the ‘celebrities’ prison' of the East German Ministry of State Security. Focusing on the differing receptions of GDR memorial sites, this article draws on interviews with two former political prisoners and with visitors to the Memorial who grew up in socialist East Germany. It argues that the open approach of the Memorial, which leaves visitors to draw their own conclusions from the exhibition, allows different stakeholders to find ways of personal engagement with the past at the site despite the disparities with their own memories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-716
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Review of History
Issue number4
Early online date12 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Stasi
  • History
  • Memory
  • Memorial
  • Bautzen


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